NY Islanders Three-Headed Beast – Why The Goalie Situation Will Continue To Be A Problem

Nabokov, Montoya, DiPietro of the NHL NY Islanders


You do not need much hockey acumen to know that three goalie systems do not work. You just need to be a recent Isles fan to recall that it was not that long ago that a subpar DiPietro, a backup playoff caliber Dwayne Roloson, and a rusty and off scheduled Marty Biron who was relegated to a press box.


Goalies aren’t wind-up toys, who just need to be wound and placed on the ice on a whim. They are mercurial and eccentric people who have rituals and habits to somehow get the desire and focus to have rubber pucks slapped at them at high velocity.


The addition of DiPietro, who had nary his own schedule to get up to NHL speed, just his own competitive all-be-damned edge and his friendship with Charles Wang to ride right into goal, threw the Isles goal minding into a tizzy. The team, much less the goaltenders, never recovered. That trade deadline Garth actually considered dealing both Biron and Roloson, knowing a vet could be had later that summer to be backup to their 15-year albatross.  Nobody bit on Biron, and even Roloson would not get near the Isles barometer of value.


Other teams can tell you other horror tales of three goalies. There is just no schedule to it. No working around it. Invariably, someone sits or has their knee blow up like a kid’s balloon to be perhaps shaped into a dog or a hat until next season.


In fact, the 15-year deal of Rick DiPietro has become one of the worst thought out contracts in all-professional sports. What has become clear, whether you root for the guy or just want him to get punched in the face by Mike Tyson, is that he has finally has the potential to be a disruption to the equilibrium, general health, and the future of the Isles rebuild starting this season.


Sorry, just no getting around this anymore. No more dancing around the subject.


Neil Smith knew it was a bad idea. Not that he was acting like any hero as he and the internal staff had a virtual war go on during his brief tenure. However one of his final acts was an attempt to countermand Charles Wang’s desire to give The Rick a longterm insane deal by calling his agent to arrange a meeting to do a more reasonable 6-year term.


That was the final straw. Their battle then went underground into an under wraps NHL courtroom-like drama of testimony later on, as the Isles booted Neil, kept the system in place, and moved to Garth Snow. Charles then hammered out the deal that makes Isles fans moan in the night.  The final moral to this story is fan; player and team beware of contracts outside the normal scope. Nobody can live up to it. Just ask Mike Richards and Philly.


So now here we are, another year, and Rick DiPietro even lower in Isles fans minds. His play last year, despite better health showed poorly on the stat charts. His numbers cannot be pinned on the substandard defense alone when Roloson could take that same and make him look like gold. Of course, his comment last season seemed to light a fire under fans where it was viewed that he dismissed any and all other goaltenders to actually pushing him, much less perhaps pushing him out. He was so obtuse to his reality and situation in that interview it seemed like a bit of a put-on.


Rick hates the press. Anyone who knows and has dealt with him knows this. Getting clarity or even a story on your own terms out of him is near impossible. Much has been made of his flip egocentric comment. With no sly wink or twinkle of the eye, we are left with the sad reality. He doesn’t “get it”.  With his now opposite standpoint this summer via interviews, it is clear he’s talking the talk, but does he know the walk anymore?


Does Rick understand the hard truth that most fans are about ready to move on? Now or later, the writing is on the wall. He just knows he has a friend in Charles that gives him more leeway than commonsense would allow.


This all said, it is not like the isles were exactly thrown from they playoffs due to Rick’s trials and tribulations. The timing of Rick’s trouble was not grand, but it isn’t like it killed the Isles cup hopes. It wasn’t like Poulin must start or sit. He is better to develop at Bridgeport until it is clear where he need to be. It’s not like Kosikken was knocking at the door as he was scrambling to sew the holes in the back of the net.


Enter Al Montoya, who never got his shot in two places thanks to good prospects and scouting as the Rangers had Henrik and Phoenix has that other guy… Ummm… oops, nevermind… Bryzgalov is the Flyers goalie for the next 9 years or until they fail in a playoff round.


Montoya looks like one of those late bloomers. No huge top goalie projection anymore, but a solid steady guy who can do whatever needs to be done perhaps. Or until a wunderkind erupts, sending him packing or backing up for a third time. That’s NHL goaltending.


The problem is the Nabokov Situation, which is about as concerning as the Bonnie Situation in Pulp Fiction right now. Here is a guy who won 44 games in his last season in the NHL, despite tanking in the playoffs, which seemed to kill his realistic value when he and his agent overrated and overvalued him last year.

The Nabokov situation is more trouble than a good cup of coffee


Here is also a guy with a track record, despite being “too good to play for the lowly Isles” last season when they pulled him off the waiver wire. Talk about your hang-ups. He has a playoff reaching (despite tanking) pedigree, who also is now in the mix for a mere song this season thank to the righteous and rightful tolling of his contract by the NHL. He will cost the Isles a mere $570,000. Hell, that’s less than Andy Hilbert.


As DP was able to stay relatively healthy last season, chances are he will do the same this summer and out the gate. The problem is that he is not even a shade of his former self. My belief is that level that the Isles need him to be and play is what will only send him to the IR again. This is a problem.


There is also the problem of The Rick’s head. Rick, who was the guest of an all-star game just once, likes to compare himself and his situation to that of Tom Brady. The only thing at DiPietro has in common with Tom Brady is his pay grade. The problem is that he is no such level. He is far more comparable to Drew Bledsoe…another top pick and face of the franchise of the New England Patriots who got swept out of the way.


The sooner all recognize this reality the better it will be for all.


The Isles PR department story is that this could be a triple threat. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is a three-prong problem with no sure thing of a solution. What the Isles need to hope on is that someone here or elsewhere goes down like a Mangano Referendum vote. Only if a team comes looking for a Montoya or Nabokov, or DP has an orbital bone relapse courtesy another goaltender who tires of his still almost rookie-like on-ice behavior, will this come to some sort of temporary conclusion. Unless Montoya or Poulin becomes ready to take the reins and not let go will this begin to become clear-cut.  That or DiPietro gets some sort of bionics.

Until then this potential mess will get Messier.



Errr… messier.



Triple threat indeed.



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About the Author: B.D. Gallof is a published writer and hockey blogger. He writes about Hockey, NY Islanders & the NY Islanders venue situation for CBS New York. BD has been written up in Sports Illustrated, TSN.ca, the NY Times Slapshots blog, Yahoo's Sports and SportsBusiness Journal. He has been a featured blogger for The Huffington Post, as well as owner, lead writer, and managing editor at HockeyIndependent.com.

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  1. b_olton says:

    We can only hope the Isles are as “serious” as they claim to be with spots being earned this year. And if they carry 3 goaltenders like they did 2 years ago then we know they have learned absolutely nothing from past mistakes.
    There’s generally an optimistic (and refreshing) vibe around the fan base and the team that this year could be when they finally take a significant step forward. Handing the golden boy a free pass to start because of his contract/relationship w/ Wang would be a disastrous way to derail that much-needed optimism. In short, nothing would be better to see the Rick put up and most of all SHUT UP

  2. Ian says:

    Unfortunately, Rick will be on this team, because the Isles need his salary to reach the cap floor. Best hope is that he can go on LTIR, that way the salary still counts, but we won’t have to see him play. I really hope Jack is allowed to go with the hot hand in goal. I want to be optimistic, but I’m also a realist. I guess we will find out soon enough.

    • BDGallof says:

      Isles can solve that by creating a longterm contract for the goalie that moves him out of the way. Not to mention, any buy out also hits cap. Nothing will be done until after this season.

  3. P13 says:

    Nice entry. Agree 100%. Three goalies is not like carrying 7 defensemen or an extra forward. It simply does not work.

    • MJS says:

      Lots of teams carry both without a negative impact. Really, no one is talking about how Gillies was bringing the team down by being in the press box. The extra forward or defenseman is may not be super desirable, but it is pretty common.

  4. Jethro09 says:

    DP is going to be an Islander until his contract runs out or Wang buys him out. He’s not retiring. He’s not going to quit. Wang was a dope for giving him that ridiculous deal. Now he, the team and its fans have to live with it.

    That being said, I agree with you that his perteptual rehab did not hurt the team. The team sucked. It was a bottom feeder for the past four years and it was so for reasons other than goaltending. DP was not preventing some stud prospect from getting a shot or holding a contender back from winning a championship. However, that is on the verge of changing (hopefully).

    My guess is that DP will continue to get a chance until this team is truly ready to be a perrenial contender and/or at least one of Poulin, Koskinen or Nilsson are ready to be full-time NHLers. Once those things happen, if DP is not carrying his weight by living up to the contract with his play, I think Wang will buy him out.

    As crazy and loony as Charles Wang is, I don’t think that he is dumb enough to let this franchise wallow in mediocrity and not become successful out of some foolish loyalty to a friend. Wang bought out Yashin when Snow told him he needed to. I think Wang will do the same with DP when he approached to do so. We’ll see.

  5. Bob E says:

    Thats just stupidity if they DP underwhelms in preseason and we still play him as starter.

    Montoya the only guy that has proven himself so far. You are right on BD. He is the late bloomer. He start until the job is taken away from him from Poulin or Nilsson.

    Nabby is just a nice free card for us. No cost since if it should not work out. He is all upside.

    Which bring me back to DP “as Drew Bledsoe”. Nice one BD.
    He is our last tie to the milbury era. When team is prepared to move foward completely, he is last piece we need to part with. TIME TO RETIRE RICKY, save us from 10 more year of payment.

  6. Isles27 says:

    First off DP’s not going to retire and leave millions of dollars on the table nobody in their right mind would if you want him off the team the Isles will have to buy him out and blame Wang for this ridiculous situation not DP. You can definitely blame DP for having a inflated ego. Second, Montoya hasn’t proven anything yet, he hasn’t played enough NHL games to judge him yet so let’s just wait and see how things go during camp and the start of the season before we anoint him as #1. I agree having 3 goalies is not a good idea and good luck to Cappy in having to deal with this.

  7. anthony c says:

    dp is a bum. I’m hoping he tears his ACL or something before thanksgiving or christmas. This team goes no where with red light ricky in net.

    And someone said they need him on the team to stay above the cap floor. They add niederreiter to the team then they don’t need dp’s cap hit at all. Also tavares has a new contract that will kick in next season, and strome will most likely be on the team next season full time. So dp is not needed anymore. He is a waste of space. And I wish that overblown ego of his would get taken down a couple dozen pegs. Also for him to compare himself to brady. There is a HUGE difference. Brady has 3 championships. You got ZERO championships dp.

  8. Michael Ryan says:

    It is a dicey situation for sure.

    I still have hope for DP. I admit I may be blind to certain things but I stick to your point that despite his injuries and such, DP is not the reason why the Isles have failed to make the playoffs the l;ast few seasons.

    I have to believe that one of these goalies has to be dealt.

  9. Isles2001 says:

    How awesome it would have been to get Samsonov for DP back in the day. Osgood stays, we do better in the playoffs, no fifteen year deal……but then again, we might still have Milbury, we may not have Tavares (but we could…..or Kane, Teows, Parise…..that’s a scientific problem of chance) and we might have been good those years going into the LHP or arena vote.

    Who cares. We would have passed the egomaniacal overrated injury ignoring chronic breakage in net to another team. Boston.

    That said, Montoya has to run with his first chance (after Rick’s first blow-out loss and Nabokov’s pedestrian showing after the warning signs in Russia – which I hope not to see).

  10. [...] HOCKEY INDEPENDENT: BD Gallof looks at the Islanders “three-headed monster” of Rick DiPietro, Evgeni Nabokov and Al Montoya in goal to potentially begin the season. [...]

  11. MJS says:

    Having played at a relatively competitive level of hockey and been in a 3 goalie tandem at the same time, I don’t necessarily think that it is going to be as bad as the DP/Roloson/Biron fiasco. I think the biggest part of the disruption can be overcome by having defined roles, a series of guaranteed starts early on, and a chance to earn more playing time. The biggest thing that throws you off your game is not knowing when you’re going to play again, which definitely killed Biron. I also think that Capuano and co are managing expectations better (not great, not good, but better) this year as well. The only real problem is that if DP is really off of his game again and doesn’t get much game time, then he could become a clubhouse cancer of sorts just by brooding. Either way, Nabokov ideally should be gone whenever another team has a goaltending injury to deal with.